ok, the #kultwit was started from an article, tweeted by @ari_ap
Artikel juara! @ari_ap: The Economist article: the politics of hair http://bit.ly/bnC3NX Hair style as an instrument to control the people
taken from http://www.economist.com/node/16743613
Hair, beards and power
Taking it on the chin
In free societies and tyrannies alike, the hair on, and around, a man’s head always sends an ideological signal
SHAHRYAR, a fashion-conscious young socialite from Tehran, was immensely proud of his Jackson-5-style Afro. The baseej, Iran’s thuggish militia, were less impressed. They arrested him and dragged him away to a local clerical court, on the grounds that his sprouting hairdo was a dangerous Western import. Shahryar argued that since his style was really African, it posed no threat to revolutionary principles. The baseej disagreed: it was African-American so it could pollute Iranian society with the mores of the country’s greatest enemy.
The mullah in charge decided that although the fashion did indeed have American associations, it should be remembered that many black citizens of the United States had converted to Islam. In fact they represented the vanguard for jihad on the Western front—so in deference to them, Shahryar could hold onto his coif.
Long anxious to keep female hair under wraps, the rulers of the Islamic Republic have more recently become concerned about men’s hairdos. For years the streets of Tehran have been filled with young men making exuberant experiments with quiffs and stiffly gelled manes. But in an attempt to get these undisciplined tresses under control, the Iranian authorities last month released a list of approved haircuts for men: mostly neat variations on a short-back-and-sides. The Culture and Islamic Guidance ministry chose the “Veil and Chastity Day” festival to disclose this narrow range of options, explaining that they were intended to counter a “Western cultural invasion”. Whether anyone will want a government-sanctioned style is another matter.
Of mullahs and mullets
Across the world, there are probably more arguments over women’s hair or headgear than over the hair on men’s heads. But whenever male hair is at issue, emotions run sky-high on both sides. For authoritarian regimes, controlling male appearance, and imposing absolute uniformity, seems to be a point of pride; and defying such controls soon becomes a matter of honour for dissidents.
The men of North Korea have been under orders to mind their hairstyles since 2005, when they were berated for their messy barnets by their leader, Kim Jong Il. A television campaign entitled “let’s trim our hair in accordance with the socialist lifestyle” warned men that long hair could sap their brains. Draconian hair-regimes can be ghastly as well as ridiculous. At the height of the violence in Iraq, many barbers were murdered, accused of giving haircuts that were too Western or un-Islamic; this happened after Muqtada al-Sadr, a fiery Shia cleric, issued edicts telling men how their hair should be trimmed.
In many societies, beards and moustaches are even more ideologically charged than the question of what, if anything, sprouts from the top of male heads. Both in Muslim countries, and in the Muslim diaspora, sporting a bushy beard—often with the upper lip shaven—has become a symbol of piety. Many of the sternest Islamic regimes give men absolutely no choice in the matter. In June Somalia’s Islamic militants ordered men in Mogadishu to grow their beards and trim their moustaches. When the Taliban held power in Afghanistan, trimming one’s whiskers was outlawed; luxuriant beards flourished everywhere. Secular regimes that govern mainly Muslim populations often ban or strongly discourage beards. But when Saparmurat Niyazov, the late despot of Turkmenistan, ordered young men to shave their goatees, it was not so much an anti-religious measure as a general crackdown on personal freedom of all kinds. It was in a similar spirit that Enver Hoxha, Albania’s communist tyrant, outlawed beards (and almost every other show of individualism) in the 1970s.
One of the first changes decreed by the Islamists of Hamas after their victory over the secularists of Fatah in the 2006 Palestinian elections was that policemen were allowed to grow beards. But the theology of male hair can be controversial. Orthodox Christian priests generally sport beards in humble imitation of Jesus Christ; the most conservative say a priest’s hair and beard should not be cut because his whole body has been sanctified by the rite of ordination. Christian theologians still argue over what Saint Paul meant when he told the people of Corinth that for men to have long hair was shameful, while for women, flowing tresses were something glorious (although they should keep them covered, perhaps to avoid tempting wayward angels). Samson, one of the heroes of the Hebrew scriptures, seems to exemplify a different understanding of the power of hair: his awesome strength abandoned him as soon as his locks were trimmed.
For Muslims, imitating the faith’s founder is also given as a reason for growing beards. But there are many arguments over whether the practice is mandatory or just recommended. And the more beards are promoted in Islamic societies, the more unpopular they become in places that are wary of Islam—such as India, where a court opined last year that a Christian college was entitled to ban beards. To the dismay of Indian Muslims, the judge declared: “We do not want Talibans here.”
In Iran men can choose whether to shave or not, but Afro-sporting youths avoid beards because they would carry a hint of conformity with authority. And as Anthony Synnott, a British-born sociologist, points out, the only constant in the history of hairstyles is that each generation of men likes to defy its fathers (and father figures). In the 1960s both skinheads and hirsute hippies were challenging the uniformity of a generation that had received its formative haircuts while in uniform. Once every possible length had been tried, the only way to impress the world was through colour: rainbow-hued Mohawks, stripes and wings.
But in free societies, anything—however outrageous it seems at first—becomes respectable after a while. (Think how the body-piercing favoured by punk-rockers lost its power to shock after young bankers started sporting discreet earrings with their pinstriped suits.) One of the rising stars in Japanese politics is 58-year-old Yoshimi Watanabe, whose “Your Party” has just won 11 seats in the upper house of the legislature. Among his trademarks is a faux-hawk or “antenna” hairstyle, reportedly modelled on David Beckham’s appearance in 2002; voters apparently like it.
But Japan is no paradise for men in search of trichological freedom. The municipality of Isesaki has just told its male employees to shave their chins on grounds that “some citizens find bearded men unpleasant, so beards are banned.” The announcement coincided with the start of the summer season, in which men are encouraged to cool down by doffing their jackets and ties and save on air-conditioning. A bearded, open-necked town clerk, it seems, just wouldn’t look proper.
the #kultwit itself? see part 2 🙂